Tag Archives: capital ring

Wandering into the New Year

31 Dec

This blog focuses on the two hobbies which give me great pleasure (most of the time), walking and family history. As described yesterday I had plenty of family history resolutions/goals in 2010, but I don’t think there were actually any walking resolutions.

I did end up walking the South Downs Way in 2010, which I had hoped to do for some time, but it wasn’t really a new year’s resolution. I also walked parts of the North Downs Way and the Capital Ring around London in 2010, but again I wouldn’t consider either of them to have been brought about by a new year’s resolution.

For 2011 however I have a pretty clear idea of the walking I want to do. I haven’t really considered whether it is actually going to be possible to fit it all in, and of course a lot will depend on what the weather is like.

The walks I would like to complete in 2011 can be divided into three categories:

Long Distance Walks

South Downs Way – I want to do the South Downs Way again, this time it will probably be from west to east, and all in one go. In 2010 I walked it on one or two days a week, but in 2011 I want to take a week off in the Summer and do it all in one go.

North Downs Way – In 2011 my friend Chris and I need to get the North Downs Way finished and out of the way. We have about five days worth of walking to go, but it is a bit of a headache getting out into Kent to actually do it.

High Weald Landscape Trail – This is another walk Chris and I hope to complete in 2011, and one I am really looking forward to because the first half is through true ancestral landscape with opportunities to many churches along the way.

Shorter Named Walks

There are several shorter routes dotted around the south east that I would like to walk:

Worth Way – A fairly short walk (about seven miles) along a disused railway between Three Bridges and East Grinstead (both in Sussex). It shouldn’t be particularly challenging but will serve as a nice little warm up for some of the longer/steeper walks.

Chalk Stones Trail – Another shorter walk, taking in part of the South Downs and the village of West Dean, Sussex. What is there not to like?

There are also several shorter walks in London that I wouldn’t mind doing, and I would like to revisit the site of the 2012 Olympics and see how the building works have progressed over the intervening months.

Genealogy Walks

There are lots of places that I want to visit, just to go and visit the areas where my ancestors came from and explore a few churches and cemeteries. In fact there is hardly a village in Sussex that isn’t on my list (admittedly it is as yet an unwritten list) of places to visit and photograph.

The list isn’t just limited to Sussex, there are plenty of places in Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and London that I want to visit. I definitely want to spend more time in the town of Alton and the village of Exton, both in Hampshire.

Unlike most of the other walks, these walks will be more about the destination rather than the actual walking itself. All I need to work out is how I am going to fit it all into 12 months.

Unplugged: Capital Ring – Plaistow to Woolwich [THE END]

11 Dec

It was a slightly warmer day than a fortnight ago when my friend Chris and I walked the previous section of the Capital Ring in London. Today we continued from where we left off at Plaistow on the Greenway (which you might remember follows the route of the Northern Outfall Sewer).

The Greenway is nice and flat and makes for quite easy walking, but unlike the previous section there was not much to see along this section, really just houses, a cemetery and a hospital. The only thing that broke it up were frequent road crossings and gateways like the one above.

Eventually the route broke off from Greenway and passed through a string of parks (seemingly known collectively as Beckton District Park). This at least broke some of the monotony, but they weren’t particularly attractive or appealing under grey cloudy skies, although we did meet a group of geese out for a walk.

Having passed through a residential area we then arrived at the modern buildings of the University of East London on the banks of the Royal Albert Dock. Across the water was London City Airport and beyond that the King George V Dock. The only boats moving on the water today were rowing boats and in the sky above were a surprisingly small number of planes arriving at the airport.

The path cuts through another residential area to take us out to the banks of the River Thames with just the river separating us from the finish point on the south side. The official route uses the Woolwich Foot Tunnel to cross under the river, but this is closed for rebuilding work until March 2011 so we had to take the Woolwich Free Ferry across the Thames instead.

I have never used the foot tunnel before, so I was a little disappointed not to be able to walk under the Thames, but I don’t recall ever using the ferry before either so that was a new experience for me as well, although admittedly not that exciting.

The start and finish point of the Capital Ring is the southern entrance to the foot tunnel and it was somewhat of an anti-climax in the end to arrive and find it surrounded by hoardings, but at least we made it round.

So, that completes the 78 miles of the Capital Ring around London (actually I am not sure about the accuracy of some of the mileage, but it doesn’t really matter). For the most part it has been an enjoyable walk, there were some parts of the route where I felt less than comfortable and was glad to keep moving and there were places where I could have lingered for longer, and will possibly re-visit at some stage.

It has been quite varied, not many hills, but a pleasing amount of woodland and parks, although many of those parks were really playing fields and not proper parkland (like Richmond Park). There was usually something of historical interest for me to see and many of these sights would warrant closer examination (we never really had time to linger for long). Of course there was also plenty of modern features to admire (like the Olympic Stadium) or cast scorn upon. Really everything you would expect from the City of London.

Thoughts now turn to the next route for the new year, I am currently considering the High Weald Landscape Trail, 94 miles from Horsham, West Sussex to Rye, East Sussex. Being more rural might mean waiting for a few months for the ground to dry up a bit. We also still have the North Downs Way to finish, but that is for the summer when the days are longer and we can spend more time walking.

I also want to try to get in some more family history themed walks next year. There are lots of places in Sussex (and beyond) that I want to visit, with houses and churches to photograph and generally get a feel for some ancestral landscapes. I also intend to walk the South Downs Way next year, this time all in one go, or rather all in one week, rather than spread out over several weeks.

Unplugged: Capital Ring – Finsbury Park to Plaistow

27 Nov

It has been a while since my friend Chris and I went to London and walked a section of the Capital Ring, but despite the cold weather that is what we did today. When I say cold, it was only around freezing but still a lot colder than I am used to walking in. Despite the cold this has to have been one of my favourite sections of the walk.

We started back at Finsbury Park railway station and headed across the Finsbury Park and on to Clissold Park and Stoke Newington. Here the path took us through Abney Park Cemetery, which is a lovely cemetery which although it looks overgrown and neglected is actually a nature reserve and conservation area. There are some amazing memorials here and I could have spent hours exploring, one of the most prominent graves is that pictured below of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.

From Stoke Newington the path continues in a north-eastern direction to Springfield Park and the River Lea, the walk then follows the river roughly south-east. There was quite a lot of activity on the river (narrowboats, canoes and swans) and the path follows this until Old Ford Lock, where the path joins The Greenway.

The Greenway is another named path which is along the top of a sewer. I have followed many things over my years of walking, from disused railways to rivers and canals, but I think this is the first time I have followed a sewer. The sewer in question is the Northern Outfall Sewer and it is elevated above the surroundings, giving some great views.

The Greenway crosses the site of the London 2012 olympics and there are excellent views of the construction works in progress. The photo above shows the main olympic stadium to the north of The Greenway. Although it looks quite bright, the weather took a turn for the worse, it didn’t actually rain (or snow) but it did come over very dark and threatening.

Further along The Greenway there were some interesting views across to Canary Wharf (pictured below), acting as a reminder that we are nearing the end of the Capital Ring, on the bank of the River Thames. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will be back up to London to complete the final section before Christmas.

Capital Ring: Finchley Road to Finsbury Park

9 Oct

It felt really good this morning to be setting off up the road with my walking boots on my feet and a rucksack on my back. It didn’t feel quite so good to see the bus disappearing round the corner without me! So slightly later than planned my friend Chris and I walked another section of the Capital Ring path.

This section was a lot better than either of was expecting, the previous walk had been quite demoralising but this was quite a nice walk, the signposting was very good, and there was very little of the wandering around residential streets of the last walk. The weather helped as well, there was a thick layer of cloud, but it was quite warm, although the sun didn’t break through until we were on the train on the way home.

Much of the walk was through woodland, which really helped make for a pleasant walk. Cherry Tree Wood was particularly good because of the nice little cafe, but Highgate Wood and Queens Wood were both good, with some steep climbs in Queens Wood. Despite quite a lot of rainfall in the last couple of months most of the paths were pretty good (not too muddy) and there was a clear sign of autumn in the carpet of leaves in the woodland.

The final stretch of today’s route (between Highgate and Finsbury Park) was along a section of disused railway line (the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway), now known as the Parkland Walk. I am no stranger to disused railway lines, after all Sussex has quite a few of them, but I wasn’t really expecting to find one in London. Not only are they usually flat and well surfaced, but they also give the opportunity to find some remnants of the railway, like the platforms below, which are the remains of Crouch End Hill station.

Disused railway station

Capital Ring: Preston Road to Finchley Road

11 Sep

My friend Chris and I continued our walk around London on the Capital Ring. To be honest it wasn’t a very good day’s walking, the weather was not very nice, although we did manage to avoid most of the showers. There was very little of interest in this part of north London to look out for.

Having said that it did get off to a promising start (once we had left the residential area around Preston Road underground station) with a climb up Barn Hill. On the top of the hill we were rewarded with a splendid view across to Wembley Stadium (despite the grey conditions) and a white painted trig point.

Barn Hill trig point

Not long after here things started to go downhill, there was a bit more open country, and a climb up to Gotford Hill (with the rather desolate looking footpath sign shown below) but soon were in built up areas again, walking along pavements beside busy roads and between rows of houses.

Remote footpath sign

Then things got really bad as virtually all the signs marking the route disappeared. I don’t like having to walk around with a map constantly in my hand, and have been used to just following the signs on previous sections. We didn’t go far out of our way, but we did miss a couple of turnings. It was just annoying to have to keep checking the map to see which street we should be following.

By lunchtime we had just about had enough, the weather was deteriorating and we need some food. We decided we wouldn’t make it all the way to the end of this section of the route in time for the train home, so we decided to stop early, get some lunch and make our way home. As we are now in north London it is taking longer and longer to get back home, but we are about three-quarters of the way around the route now, and time to start planning the next route we are going to walk.

Capital Ring: South Greenford to Preston Road

28 Aug

After a break of a couple of weeks (probably too much of a break if truth be known) I was back up in London with my friend Chris walking another section of the Capital Ring More accurately it was about one and a half sections, finishing the previous section off, completing one whole section and starting the next.

Today’s route was largely along residential streets and as such was a bit disappointing, there were however a few highlights which made it worthwhile. The first of these was following another section of the Grand Union Canal, unfortunately it was quite a short stretch, but it did make me think again about walking to Birmingham one day.

For me the best bit of the walk today was the climb up Horsenden Hill and the views at the top. We were lucky with the weather today, and despite a bit of cloud the views were quite excellent, probably the best of route so far. The picture below shows the view looking west.

View from Horsenden Hill

As an added bonus, at the top of the hill was a trig point, a lovely grey painted (apparently anti-graffiti paint) block of concrete used in mapping the country. It was a few metres away from the path and I couldn’t resist paying it a visit and getting some photos.

Horsenden Hill trig point

Whilst I enjoy visiting trig points it is always much better when you just happen to come across one in the course of a walk, although it can be rather frustrating to find out afterwards that you have been somewhere near a trig point but didn’t actually spot it at the time, like in Richmond Park.

Today’s walk was rather more hilly than previous sections, Horsenden Hill was the only real green hill of the sort I am used to, but the other hills were evident in the place names (Sudbury Hill and Harrow on the Hill) and the sloping streets.

Harrow on the Hill is the home to the famous public school, and as we are just at the end of the summer holidays it wasn’t too busy. There are some nice looking buildings and impressive views across to the City of London to the south and to Wembley Stadium. The Capital Ring runs through the school’s playing fields heading east towards Northwick Park, home to a large hospital and golf course but not much else.

Capital Ring: Richmond to South Greenford

7 Aug

I spent another Saturday walking in London with my friend Chris, completing (almost) another couple of sections of the Capital Ring. This time we picked up from where we left off last week at Richmond Park and headed generally in a northerly direction to end at South Greenford railway station.

There was a definite theme to today’s walk: water. Within about ten minutes of getting off the bus we were beside the River Thames and followed this for a couple of miles. The riverside at Richmond was just starting to wake up, cafes and bars preparing for the day and some activity on the boats on the river.

Richmond Lock

This was the first time I have been alongside the Thames outside of central London, and it was really quite nice, lots of old buildings and signs of the previous commercial aspects of the river. The picture above is of Richmond Lock, with some quite fantastic ironwork on the bridge crossing the river.

After leaving the river the route cuts across Syon Park, past the rather plain looking Syon House (pictured below). I don’t know what is inside Syon House, but it seemed quite a popular place with all sorts of facilities in the vicinity, although the car park was a bit of a building site. Syon Park (like Richmond Park last week) was spoilt by the constant stream of aeroplanes passing right overhead on the way to Heathrow Airport.

Syon House

Soon however we were alongside water again, this time the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock. This is the first time I have really spent any time walking alongside a canal, and wish we had walked further along the towpath. There are not many canals in Sussex, although many stretches of river were made navigable at various times. We were never far away from traffic noise, modern buildings or housing, but there was a plenty of things to see on and along the canal.

Grand Union Canal

I believe that if we had carried on walking we would have eventually ended up in Birmingham, but we had to leave the towpath at Hanwell (with it’s flight of six locks) and follow the course of the River Brent, still more water! We followed the river for a couple more miles, before arriving at Wharncliffe Viaduct.

Wharncliffe Viaduct

I had been looking forward to viewing this masterpiece of railway engineering since I had read it was on our route. It was designed by my hero Isambard Kingdom Brunel and I stood and marvelled at this remarkable example of Brunel’s handiwork. After passing under the viaduct and taking a quick detour into Brent Lodge Park we continued along the side of the river for a few more miles, but interest was beginning to dwindle and the landscape becoming more developed.

This was one of the most enjoyable sections of the Capital Ring so far. I especially enjoyed walking alongside the canal, although the industrial past of the canal system has all but vanished, there are still traces of it’s history on the banks. Perhaps one day (or several days) I will follow the canal all the way to Birmingham.

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